Monday, January 18, 2010
Updated: January 20, 1:53 PM ET
Door opened for Mosley-Mayweather
By Dan Rafael
Overwhelmed by family loss in the Haiti earthquake, welterweight titleholder Andre Berto withdrew on Monday from his scheduled unification fight with Shane Mosley on Jan. 30 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
The cancellation of the fight could lead to Mosley instead defending his title against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the spring.
"Since the 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti on Tuesday evening, I have been focusing on my family and the Haitian people who are facing an inconceivable battle for survival while still trying to continue to prepare for an opportunity I have dreamt of since childhood," Berto said in a statement. "I lost several family members to the earthquake and, after two days without word, was relieved to learn that my sister, Naomi, and her daughter, Jessica, survived, but were left homeless. I have seen the pain in my parents' eyes as they attempt to understand what has happened to our homeland and recognize a place they once called home.
"As a result of this disaster, I am mentally and physically exhausted and, therefore, I have no choice but to withdraw from my bout on January 30."
Berto lost at least eight family members in the disaster.
Berto's parents were born in Haiti before immigrating in 1980 to Winter Haven, Fla., where Berto grew up and still lives. Berto (25-0, 19 KOs) also represented Haiti in the 2004 Olympic Games and has done charitable work there for the past several years.
"Throughout the past six days, I have received an incredible outpouring of support, and I sincerely appreciate everyone's prayers for the people of Haiti," Berto said. "I hope that everyone will continue to keep the Haitian people in their thoughts and prayers as we work to rebuild this proud nation. The rebuilding of Haiti is not something that will happen overnight, but I am fully dedicated to helping the Haitian people recover from this catastrophic event."
Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, who promotes Mosley, broke the news to Mosley (46-5, 39 KOs) about the cancellation of the fight.
"It's just a very unfortunate situation," Schaefer said. "This is unbelievable. Everyone has seen the pictures from Haiti and followed this devastating situation. We all feel very bad for Andre. We know where his focus needs to be and that is with his family and his people. I talked to Shane. Obviously, he shares the sentiment. He feels bad for Andre and understands. But at the same time he is disappointed because he is in amazing shape with two weeks to go, and now this fight fell out. He is not happy about it, but he fully understands the situation. We just wish the best for Andre Berto."
Mosley said in a statement from his training camp in Big Bear, Calif., that his thoughts are with Berto.
"I'm disappointed that the fight has been called off, but I understand that Andre is going through a very difficult time," Mosley said. "My heart goes out to him, his family and the people of Haiti during the aftermath of this terrible tragedy. I'm sorry for the losses that Andre and all of the Haitian people are suffering. I have everyone in my prayers."
The cancellation of the fight may open another door for Mosley. With the Manny Pacquiao-Mayweather fight falling apart and Pacquiao moving on to face Joshua Clottey at Cowboys Stadium on March 13, the date Pacquiao-Mayweather was supposed to take place on, Mayweather was left without an opponent.
Schaefer, who promotes Mosley and is working with Mayweather, had announced that Mayweather would also fight on March 13 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on a pay-per-view that would compete with Pacquiao-Clottey.
However, behind the scenes, plans were being made for Mayweather to go on an alternative date. Now, Mayweather could wind up challenging Mosley for his title on May 1, a date Golden Boy has been holding for a pay-per-view event at the MGM Grand.
"That is a super fight, and now my next order of business -- to see if we can put [Mosley-Mayweather] together," Schaefer said. "That is what I am going to be doing in the coming hours. The sooner the better if we can get this potential fight done. With Shane now being available and Floyd being available, that's a fight all fight fans and sports fans would embrace. This would be a huge showdown. Shane has wanted that fight for a while. That's what I am going to try to do."
Berto's schedule will remain up in the air while he deals with his family loss. He had stormed through his professional career to win a vacant 147-pound title via seventh-round knockout of Miguel Angel Rodriguez in 2008 and has made three defenses against Steve Forbes, former titleholder Luis Collazo and junior welterweight titlist Juan Urango. But the showdown with Mosley was by far the most significant bout of his career and a way to stamp himself as a star with a victory.
But the family tragedy was too much for him to continue training for the bout.
"I think he made a correct decision for himself," said Lou DiBella, Berto's promoter throughout his professional career. "Your mental health and physical health are more important than one fight. I know that Andre has been in agony since this happened. He has been really struggling. He is mentally and physically exhausted and I don't think he's been sleeping. He's been torn about whether to fight and had to make this decision. I think he's going to go to Haiti next week.
"It's the right decision. It's impossible to watch those pictures from Haiti even if you're not Haitian. But he and his family and his parents are suffering. It hits very close to home. How could any human being focus under those circumstances? I'm glad for Andre that he made this decision for himself."
The entire Jan. 30 card has been called off. The undercard included several notable bouts, including Glen Johnson against Yusaf Mack in a light heavyweight title eliminator, former junior welterweight titlist Vivian Harris facing Lucas Matthysse, and former junior middleweight titleholder Sergio Mora ending a year-plus layoff to fight Jason Naugler in his first fight since signing with Golden Boy Promotions.
Schaefer said he would huddle with matchmaker Eric Gomez to notify the fighters that the card was off and to discuss alternatives.
DiBella said everyone involved in the show, from his staff to Golden Boy to HBO, which was to launch the 2010 season of "World Championship Boxing" with the fight, was supportive of Berto's decision.
"Not one person involved in the promotion had any negative response to this decision," DiBella said. "Everyone empathizes with Andre and his whole family. The young man's well-being outweighs any one fight."
HBO's Kery Davis echoed DiBella.
"Andre Berto is a terrific athlete and an even better person," Davis said. "We can only imagine the pain the earthquake has caused the entire Berto family. Our thoughts and prayers are with Andre and we hope to have him back on HBO when he is ready to return to the ring."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.